Close season is often a nightmare for football fans, as the only thing they have to look forward too, is when the club announce a new signing or pre-season friendly.
Sometimes you may find an exhibition game for charity, but as the majority of pitches are now in the relaying stage – games are pretty much non-existent, therefore we find ourselves glued to the transfer news.
We always look out for news on ex-players moving on, sometimes with an eye on those tasty sell-on clauses and sometimes, we sit in shock as players, who lets say didn’t really shine at Stags, move onto better things.
This week’s post is all about that – as over the last few weeks, we’ve asked you for your suggestion on an Exhibition XI of players who, for whatever reason, didn’t shine in the amber and blue – but went onto bigger and better things.
Here’s the XI your suggestions have picked…
The hardest position to pick was goalkeeper, we’ve had plenty of flops – but all of them have continued to flop and flap, meaning there’s very few keepers in recent years that have gone onto bigger and better things.
Grof was by no means a flop – this XI is definitely NOT about Stags flops, we can save that for another day.
The Hungarian Shot-Stopper is actually, in my eyes anyway, a club legend for his stand-out performances which got us too Wembley back in 2011, when he joined on loan from Notts County.
Grof had little first team football under his belt when he arrived from Meadow Lane and sadly, transfer ruling meant he missed out on his place at Wembley as his loan ended the day before the final (It may have been a few days before, either way – Duncan Russell was unable to re-sign him for the final, meaning he missed out).
Released by Notts County at the end of the season, I believe Grof may well have re-joined Stags but as Paul Cox took the reins, the club went in a different direction and Grof, following a successful trial – joined league one Walsall.
A clean sheet on his saddlers debut was followed by a string of early quality performances between the sticks which made Grof a popular choice with the Walsall faithful, however as the season went on – Grof fell down the pecking order and moved abroad.
Spells with German side Goslarer SC and Berliner AK followed before the now 28 year old joined Hungarian side Budapest Honvéd where his performances recently, have helped the side onto silverware, winning the OTP Bank Liga, the first time the side have won the title since 1993.
For me the biggest surprise of a player whose gone onto bigger things, as the Steve Cook who pulled on a Mansfield Town shirt for eight times back in 2010-11 was nowhere near Premier League Standard… and yet this season he’s established himself as an ever present figure in the Bournemouth side who finished 9th in the Premier League, also bagging two goals.
One of many signed by David Holdsworth, Cook started well with a solid debut at FC Halifax in the FA and had an impressive long throw, but suffered indifferent form – when he turned up he was good value, but when he didn’t it was costly – I think the search party for Steve Cook at Grimbsy (7-2 defeat on New Years Day) is still on-going. If you’d have identified him as a future premier league player that afternoon, you’d have been admitted to a mental hospital. Woeful.
It doesn’t help Cook’s case that, since his rise up the leagues with Bournemouth, he’s slagged Mansfield off at every given opportunity, saying that playing for Mansfield made him want to quit football.
Come on, how many of you said “Who?” – Maxime Chanot was a floppy haired French young centre back who signed on loan from Sheffield United during our debut season in the conference.
He impressed on his debut with a man of the match display at home to Woking in a 1-0 defeat, but then the following game, promptly got himself sent off in a 3-2 loss at Stevenage for two bookable offences.
After serving his one game ban, he returned to the side but was sloppy and at fault for what proved to be the winning goal for Wrexham – he was then in and out of the side before returning too hs parent club.
For years’ the promising, yet constantly fouling, young defender went under the raider, before with a fresh hair cut – making a name for himself in the Belgium with Kortrijk winning numerous player honours and bagging a move to the MLS, and New York City FC, managed by Patrick Vieira, captained by World Cup winner David Villa – it’s amazing what a good hair cut can do!
Alex John Baptiste
Again by no means a flop in the amber and blue, we always new Sutton-In-Ashfield born bap would go onto bigger things, although we perhaps expected a move to League One and a steady progression, rather than jumping straight to Championship level with Blackpool – where after getting his head down he became a regular and ended up in the Premier League.
Further spells in the Championship with Bolton, Blackburn and Middlesbrough followed as the Sutton born defender flew the Mansfield flag.
Ok so not a player whose gone onto play in the premier league or in the MLS, but Amari’i Bell, who was signed on loan at the start of the 2014-15 season by Paul Cox – hasn’t done too badly for himself as a stable left back at League One level with Fleetwood.
Bell impressed in pre-season, with good performances against Notts County, Aston Villa and Leeds United – but for whatever reason, couldn’t get in the side ahead of Lee Beevers and was recalled by parent club Birmingham City and loaned elsewhere.
After impressive displays Swindon and Gillingham, Bell signed for Fleetwood on a free in 2015 and close to 100 games later, is highly rated by a number of league one and championship sides
If I was an actor, I’d be in line for playing the part of Sam, in “Clucas – The rise of a ginger” as the tricky winger has risen from the conference to the premier league in the space of five seasons.
Often played out of position by Paul Cox as an out and out front man to fill the void left by Matt Green, Clucas established himself as a quality goal-scorer but for whatever reason, didn’t look happy in the front man role, often drifting wide which wouldn’t have gone down well with Cox.
On transfer deadline day in 2014, he did the unthinkable and signed for Chesterfield in League One before, again after impressing on the wing, was snapped up by Championship side Hull City, netting Chesterfield some money, but also giving us a cut… so we can perhaps forgive the switch now?
Clucas played a key part in Hull’s promotion to the Premier League netting six goals in the Championship and didn’t look out of place in the Premier League last season and will no doubt be on the move again soon.
What a story.
Part of the side who were relegated from the football league, Bell was a key figure in the heart of midfield, who like many others jumped from the titanic-esc Mansfield once relegated, opting to join the other MTFC – Macclesfield.
Whilst Bell has few trophies to his name, he’s been pretty much an ever present wherever he’s been and often won player of the season awards, with spells also at Crewe Alexandra and Burton Albion before moving into coaching.
Giles is one of three players to ever don the back of a Stags shirt owned by me (Neil MacKenzie and ‘BEAST’ are the others!) and arrived as a cheeky youngsters back in 2005 from non-league Kingstonian.
Playing 70 games over two seasons, Coke fizzed in an otherwise mediocre side and attracted the attention of clubs higher up, eventually opting for Northampton, who thanks to a tribunal owed us around £70,000.
Coke after returning from injured continued to blossom and joined Motherwell, followed by spells with Bolton, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich.
Recently signed by championship side Sheffield United, Thomas arrived from Motherwell after catching many a fans eye with his performances for Plymouth, famously leaving Lee Beevers on his backside against us.
Thomas was highly rated and on his day, was a decent outlet for Stags – but under Adam Murray you could sense Thomas either wasn’t bothered, unhappy or possibly both – and was allowed to join Hartlepool in January 2016 after 17 games in the Amber and Blue.
The occasional twitter jibe with Stags fans hasn’t helped his cause, but I guess we wish him all the best in the championship next season – despite being part of a Hartlepool side relegated to the conference last season….
You could tell Gregory was a fantastic talent who just didn’t get a look in, however he did grab a goal in his Stags career which lasted 106 minutes – a tap in at Southport on his debut.
Scoring goals for fun out on loan, Gregory grabbed the attention of other clubs but had to climb the ladder the hard way, unlike to right place right time luck of Steve Cook. Gregory joined FC Halifax following a loan stint from us permanently, helping the club rise from non-league obscurity to conference national, was snapped up by then Championship side Milwall.
Gregory loved a goal at Halifax, 95 in 155 games isn’t bad at all… something he’s matched at Milwall, with 51 in 136 including vital goals which have propelled the Lions back into the Championship.
At 28, It wouldn’t surprise me to see a premier league side come calling for Gregory, who with a record like that, deserves it!
Scoring goals for fun in Scotland had attracted the Stags to Russell, who joined at the start of the 2005-06 campaign.
With six goals in eighteen games Russell departed having failed to really live up to expectations, dropping into non-league with Forest Green rovers and seemingly off the radar.
A return to Scotland re-captured Russell’s form and after scoring 34 in 32 games for Airdrie United, he moved to Kilmarnock and then to the MLS, winning the 2010 and 2011 NASL league Championships with the Carolina RailHawks.
A move to Orange Country Blues followed, dropping into a midfield role to take the skippers armband – and then into coaching and internet fame, as the superior striker, a regular feature on Soccer AM.
On The Bench
Naturally there’s a few to miss out, Rory Boulding had to live in his brothers shadow at Stags, but has since thrived in the Scottish Premier League and Championship with a number of clubs, whilst the likes of Jake Buxton and Tom Naylor both went onto play for Derby in the Championship.
Special mentions on this list go to Calvin Andrew, a hero for his goal against Chesterfield, who otherwise couldn’t find his range at Stags, has found it at Rochdale – whilst Alex Neil, who had to fill the void left by Liam Lawrence, ended up going into management, masterminding Norwich City’s climb to the premier league, sacked somewhat harshly in March this year with his side in prime position for a return to the Premier League.
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Article By | Craig Priest
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